With autumn in full swing and only a matter of time before the first snow falls in Chicago, I decided to take a few vacation days and go to the beach. Specifically Miami Beach. It was my first time visiting and I was looking forward to waking up to palm trees, ocean waves, and 80 degree weather. Of course, Miami has other great offerings, too and I wondered how much I could check off on my list in 3 days.
Arriving at Miami International Airport, I immediately felt the sunshine and warm rush of air and was glad I no longer needed the jacket I traveled with. While rideshare cars and taxi are plentiful, I opted to take the Airport Express metrobus to my Airbnb. A quick and easy ride, the Miami-Dade County metrobus system offers various routes which I used to get to a few destinations. Although not as frequent, if you are on Miami Beach, you may want to take advantage of the free trolley service that serves north, mid and south beach.
Getting off at my stop on Collins Ave, I could not help but admire the pastel and retro hotel buildings down the strip. As part of the Art Deco District, you can spot more of these buildings and hotels on Washington Avenue and the well-known Ocean Dr. Famed designer Gianni Versace’s home, now restaurant The Villa Casa Casaurina can be found within the District, along with hotel The Carlyle, the setting for the Robin William’s film “The Birdcage”
All around, there are plenty of options for dining and something for everyone. While I opted for a casual lunch on my first day, I made sure that I also ordered a Café Cubano. I am a coffee aficionado and was thrilled that it was on most coffee menus, more than what I see in Chicago. I was also excited to see plenty of spots for gelato. I suggest checking out Española Way. It is a pedestrian only street which offers plenty of dining options, a charming setting, and a side of history included. Once a popular artist area – did you know Desi Arnaz of the beloved I LOVE LUCY show frequented and played at what is now the Esmé hotel?
When you are ready for the beach, you have plenty of options along the shore of where to lay out along with parking if driving. A boardwalk also lines the area from north to south, and leads to what is now one of my favorite spots, South Pointe Park Pier. A picturesque location, it is a great vantage of the shoreline along with the sounds of ocean waves. Having arrived in time for the sunset, it was splendid.
While I was enjoying Miami Beach, I wanted to also go into the city and visit one of the museums. I decided on the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM); a modern and contemporary art museum dedicated to exhibiting international art of the 20th and 21st centuries. I could see the spectacular building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron as I rode into the area. Inside you will find the Museum’s permanent collection including ongoing exhibits for The Artist as the Poet, Felipe Mujica:The Swaying Motion on the Bank of the River Falls, and Sculpture Garden along with Meleko Mokgosi: Your Trip to Africa which closes January 9, 2022 and Allied with Power: African and African Disporia Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection which closes February 6, 2022. I enjoyed my visit and think you will too. Open Thursday to Sunday, make sure you reserve your timed tickets before you visit.
After the museum, I then headed to the notable Calle Ocho in Little Havana. Walking along the street, one of the first things you will notice are the stars on the sidewalk also known as the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame which pay tribute to Cuban and Latin cultural figures such as Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan. Don’t forget to take note of the lively murals within the neighborhood. I soon passed Maximo Gomez Park, known as Domino Park, which is an iconic spot where you’ll find the locals playing dominos. Not too far you will also come across Cuban Memorial Boulevard that pays homage to Cuban soldiers who fought in the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion. Along with shops selling souvenirs, Guayaberas and fedora hats, you will find cigar ships whose windows allow you to watch as cigar masters roll cigars. Getting hungry, there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. I settled on Old’s Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina as live music was playing.
While I scratched the surface during my stay, there is much more to see and do. I think that anyone who visits will have fun exploring this fun and friendly area. And you get a good dose of vitamin D included. Till next time, Miami.
All photos by E.Juarez
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